Ideas for Adapting Toys and Materials for Blind or Visually Impaired Preschoolers

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Two visually impaired preschoolers play with brightly colored stacking rings on a light table.

Photo courtesy of Anchor Center for Blind Children, Denver, CO

Because much of the information provided in preschool is visual in nature, adapting materials may often be necessary when working with young children with visual impairments. Adaptations include enhancing the visual characteristics of materials, using real-life objects, and making materials more tactilely interesting. Depending on the child's visual abilities, the following techniques can be used to enhance the visual characteristics of materials to elicit or sustain the child's visual attention:

  • Provide brightly colored objects, especially for children with cortical visual impairments who may have a strong color preference for red and yellow.
  • Enlarge the materials by enlarging the print and pictures or using a magnifier.
  • Provide high-contrast backgrounds so objects are more visible, for example, placing a dark-colored object on a yellow or white background. Foam sheets, which are inexpensive, washable, and available in a variety of colors, can be used to provide different color backgrounds.
  • Add shiny, fluorescent tape or black-and-white-striped tape to objects.
  • Add movement to the object, especially for children with cortical visual impairment.
  • Illuminate the object with a flashlight or penlight.
  • When introducing new objects or concepts to a child, concrete, real-life objects have to be used whenever possible. A 3-inch plastic tree should not be used to represent a real tree.
  • Direct, hands-on interaction with the objects needs to be provided, as do opportunities for close viewing, along with precise, descriptive words to define an object or action or its unique characteristics. (The orange pumpkin is large, round, and hard and has ridges or segments that you can feel.)
  • When practitioners select toys for use with a child, they should not only examine their visual appeal (bright colors) but also their tactile qualities (shape, size, texture). This can include everyday household objects such as doorknobs, locks, keys, pots, pans, and spoons).
  • Toys or objects with movable parts, like a toy truck whose wheels spin and whose door, hood, and trunk compartments open and close, encourage interactive play.
cover of Essential Elements

This is an excerpt from the AFB Press book Essential Elements in Early Intervention: Visual Impairment and Multiple Disabilities, Second Edition, edited by Deborah Chen. The book is available in the AFB Bookstore.

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